The Adornment of a Godly Woman

October 16, 2016 / No. 3850

Dear Radio Friends,
We have identified the virtuous woman. She is one who fears the Lord. This is true of her whether single or married. We have now also studied what the Bible says of the single or unmarried woman of the church. She is to be praised in her place in the church just as well as the married woman, though marriage is normally what occurs in the church. The unmarried woman has an important function in the church using her time and talents for the benefit of the church and her fellow members. She also is a virtuous woman, who is characterized by the virtues of strength and honor, wisdom and kindness.
Before entering into a study of the place and labors of a married woman in the church, we wish to take up one more subject that applies to virtuous women in general: her adornment. God’s Word addresses this subject in a number of different passages. This is true because the adornment of His daughters is of major concern to God their Father. We consider this subject using the Word of God in I Timothy 2:9, 10, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” The women of the church are exhorted in this Word to dress as women professing godliness. Those who profess to be believers, those who profess to fear God, ought to dress accordingly.
This is the subject we will address, then, in our broadcast today.
I. A Godly Woman
A few broadcasts ago we identified the virtuous woman as one who fears God. That also is the definition of a godly woman. Every believer desires to be clothed in godliness. It is a virtue that is rooted in the heart and is displayed in one’s life. It is a virtue that, though an inner attribute, is worn on the outside for everyone to see. And that is the idea of the term “godliness” as used here in this passage that we study. Perhaps a synonym of this word with which we are more familiar is that of piety. A godly person is a pious person. Now, it is obvious from the word godliness itself that a person characterized by it can only be a true believer. This is a virtue that is imparted to a person with salvation. It comes as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. A godly person is one who continues in faith, charity, and holiness with sobriety. Godliness flows out of a woman’s faith, love, and holiness. Faith is that work of salvation by which we are consciously grafted into Jesus Christ. As a result, we are one with Him. By faith we become members of His body. His mind and His desires are worked in us. We are so intimately connected to Christ that His life becomes our life. Christ lives in and through us. That life of Christ produces piety or godliness in the life of a believer—a reverence for God that becomes apparent in a person’s whole demeanor. People are able to see that such a person lives out of Christ and as a result has the fear of God. Such godliness becomes apparent in the love that we reveal toward God, His Word, His people and church, and toward others.
But, most of all, godliness flows out of the gift of salvation known as sanctification. Sanctification is that work of Christ by His Spirit by means of which we are set free from bondage to sin and Satan. By means of our sanctification we have become holy or spiritually pure before God. Though we still must contend with our sinful flesh, nevertheless the believer is set apart by salvation unto the holy service of God. This means a godly woman’s affections and thoughts are pure. Her desires are toward God and the praise of His holiness. And again, this holiness results in godliness. One who is holy inside is clothed with holiness on the outside. That is one’s spiritual apparel. A holy heart results in a holy demeanor or way of life. Those who observe a godly woman can see Christ in her.
Paul emphasizes that too in the words of our text: women profess godliness. A virtuous woman, a woman who fears God, a woman who is made holy in the blood of Christ professes, that is, makes an announcement concerning herself. That is what literally that word profess means. It is to make an announcement about oneself. And that announcement a godly woman makes is this: I am holy! I am a believer. I know Christ and am confident that He has saved me from my sins and cleansed me in His blood and therefore my desire is toward Him. I wish to please God in my life. I am not concerned about what I want. I am deeply concerned about what pleases my heavenly Father. I am not concerned what impression I leave on the ungodly and impious world around me. I do not care if the world finds me attractive. I care about one thing: that I look attractive to my Father in heaven. Such is what characterizes a woman professing godliness.
Such a woman who professes godliness is also one who brings forth good works in her life. Let us remember what a good work is too. It is not something that necessarily seems good to men, but it is a work that is good to God. A good work is done to the glory of God, stands in conformity to the laws of God, and is done out of a true faith. There is the key: it is done out of a true faith, out of a heart in which Christ has worked a conscious knowledge of Him and a hearty confidence or assurance. A woman of godliness will produce good works because faith always produces fruit, that fruit being good works. Neither must we forget that good works are not meant to call attention to themselves but always draw attention to God and the work of Christ in us. A good work is not done when a person is self-absorbed or selfish. A good work is a selfless act of love toward another. One is reminded of Dorcas, who was known by all for her acts of kindness, her alms deeds on behalf of others. She was a godly woman. She did these things out of her love for God, and others could see Christ’s work in her.
Now, good works, we must remember, flow out of the work of faith in a person’s heart. Faith is within, it is a work in the heart. Good works, on the other hand, reveal to others that faith because good works are done with our bodies. Good works are found in the words that we speak and in the deeds that we do. This is why Paul says that a godly woman professes or announces to others something about herself. She announces this by means of her good works! Her good works become her adornment. Read our text in its entirety again and we will understand what Paul is talking about: “Women adorn themselves not with broided hair or gold or pearls or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” A woman ought to adorn herself with good works! Adorn herself: to arrange or prepare herself, to decorate herself. A woman is interested in adorning herself. In the Bible, the man is never described as one who fusses over adorning himself. He keeps himself clean, he does what is necessary to keep himself from stinking or looking unkempt and sloppy, but otherwise he is not so interested in his own adornment. Although, in today’s society, this is not so true among many men. In a society in which people are so into themselves it seems that not a few men are into primping themselves up in order to adorn themselves like a woman.
But be that as it may, women throughout history have enjoyed adorning themselves. Neither does the Bible condemn adornment. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, we are told in verse 22, “maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” But the adornment of a woman professing godliness, God’s Word points out here, begins with this: she is clothed in good works. Good works are her beauty—because these good works reveal her inner beauty, that is, her godliness. That is what the virtuous woman is concerned with, fusses over. She wants to appear beautiful to God. And with that as a basis she now adorns herself cosmetically, so to speak.
III. Her Adornment
God’s Word in verse 9 of our text commands “that women adorn themselves with modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” It goes without saying, I suppose, that a woman who strives to wear her godliness through good works places only moderate attention on her physical adornment. Modest apparel is clothing that is well-arranged and seemly. In other words, it is clothing that is arranged in such a way that it covers everything. Now, I know that certainly is not the order of the day in our world. It has not been for the longest time. In fact, when a society is breaking down it seems the clothing styles become worse as time goes on. If it is not revealing blouses or dresses that show cleavage, it is a dress or skirt that reveals lots of leg. As society develops more in its sin, then the more its styles leave very little to the imagination. It seems the famous women of this world compete to see who can show the most skin at their gala events. That is an example of immodest apparel. It is clothing that causes men to gawk, and imagine, and lust after a woman. I know the excuses. Well, there is no clothing out there that covers everything anymore. You cannot seem to find anything stylish that meets the demands of modesty. But that is an excuse. It may demand some searching, it may mean I am not trending, but modest apparel can be found in stores today. We just need to look a little more closely.
Neither ought we to misunderstand that word modesty. It definitely means that a woman may adorn herself in clothing that is seemly. Her style must be chaste but at the same time it may also be attractive. A modest woman need not dress herself in old-fashioned clothes that are of a bygone era. She need not pull over her head some bag dress or be seen always in big baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants. She need not be sloppy and unkempt in her appearance. She needs to shower and smell good. Being modest is not being a slob. A modest woman indeed can and may dress in pretty clothes. She may modestly apply a little makeup or some perfume. She may make herself look pretty. But as she puts on her clothes and makeup she lives out of one principle: I am a godly woman set apart by God from this wicked unchaste world. I am not interested in following after the lustful trends of the day, but I am interested in pleasing the God who has saved me from that sin. My adornment will reflect who I am on the inside, just as the adornment of a wicked, wanton woman will reflect who she is on the inside. I am different. I want to be different. I am a daughter of God who wishes to please Him because He is my Father.
Paul gives two words here that describe what modesty is: shamefacedness and sobriety. Over against these, he gives some concrete examples of what ought not to be the emphasis of a godly woman when she is adorning herself. He says at the end of verse 9: not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. Paul’s reference here is to the women of the Roman/Greek culture and what was the emphasis of their adornment. Not only did they dress in immodest apparel meant to insight lust, but they fussed over their hair. They enjoyed their up-dos and often put glitter in their hair or wound gold chains through it or put pearls in it in well-placed positions. Then they would hang the same around their necks and in their ears. Their hands would be covered with rings. Before they would go out to a social event, they would spend hours in adorning themselves. And the reason was clear. They wanted men to pay attention to them. Underneath all their makeup they might be an ugly dog. Their personality might stink and they might be the most promiscuous and ugly woman nature wise. But they wanted all attention to be drawn to their outward beauty—to their face, to their body, to their sensuous looks, as if this outward beauty is what a woman is made of. And, indeed, to fall in love was to fall in lust with the outward adornment of a woman. Women of this sort had no shame! They were all show. Their lives consisted of: “Look at me! Look at my body! See how beautiful I am!” Paul says, let not this be the emphasis of a godly woman, even though this is the example that is always paraded before your face by the world. You, dear godly women of the church, are faced everyday with commercials, with ads, with magazines, with television and movies that are always pushing this outward beauty. Do not fall for it! But rather be shamefaced and sober in your adornment.
Shamefacedness. This means adorn yourself in such a way that it will not make a godly man who fears Jehovah blush when he looks at you. Dress in such a manner that he will be able to look at you without having to divert his eyes from certain areas of your body. Dress in such a way that a godly man will see your true beauty, that is your godliness. And he will be attracted to you for your good works. Your apparel, your makeup, and your jewelry will not override your spiritual beauty. It will cause no shame on your part or on the part of those who see you.
Ah, I know how hard it can be to place our emphasis on the spiritual rather than the earthly. We have a sinful flesh that is drawn to the ways of the world. And there is such a push toward the gaudy and showy ways of the wicked. Who wants to be left behind? Of course, we want to catch the eye of a man. To be sober, however, means that we will exercise control over the sinful inclinations of our flesh that are pulled in the direction of the world. We will follow after the rule of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will keep our eye fixed on our heavenly Father and what He desires for us to do as His daughters.
III. Her Witness
Now, I can issue you a set of rules for what you may wear and not wear. This amount of makeup is allowable but that is not. This dress is appropriate and that one is not. Too much jewelry is too showy, but that little bit is ok. I must admit, as a father I followed certain rules in my own home with my daughters. My daughters found out rather quickly when they pushed the limits. Fathers and mothers ought to exert themselves in this regard to teach their daughters modesty. But certainly I cannot issue forth for all the women of the church a list of laws that govern your adornment. Sometimes as a pastor in a congregation I felt like laying down some laws for the young women of my church, especially when I saw young women whose parents did not exercise proper supervision in their homes. That is a shame. But it is not my intent today to lay down laws to follow. I am assuming that the women of the church are believers who fear God. They are virtuous women. They are godly women. So, the one command is this: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling!
And know this: you are always leaving a witness to the world around you. In the early church, young women of the church were known for their modesty. And many young men, even in the wicked world, were attracted to these young women because of their modesty. They saw the women of the church that they were different, attractively different. Their lives were solid, well grounded, and not superficial and vain. We learn that this witness led many to enquire of the Christian faith, and even some were led to believe. May that witness be left by the godly women of our church. The eyes of the world are upon us. What witness will we leave them?
May the words of the Heidelberg Catechism ring in our hearts: Why must we do good works? That by our godly conversation, that is, by our godly way of life, others may be gained to Christ. Women of the church who profess godliness, you are beautiful!